Unlike its ConWeb buddies at the Media Research Center, Newsmax didn't spend much time launching personal attacks on WNBA star Brittney Griner after she was imprisoned in Russia on trumped-up drug charges -- it has been anti-Russia and pro-Ukraine, after all -- focusing instead on President Biden's purported incompetence in freeing her. A Nov. 14 column by Hugh Dugan, for instance, bashed Biden for having "cock-a-doodle’d the 'wrongful detention' talking point yet again" and insisted the U.S. should show "a modicum of humility" because "Russia was not so induced to give credence to the charge that Ms. Griner’s detention was wrongful." And a Nov. 28 article quoted a sportswriter calling out "the lack of sympathy — and outright anger — directed at Brittney Griner ... because she's not white, or male, or straight."
After Griner was freed following a swap for arms dealer Viktor Bout, however, Newsmax leaned into some sniping, largely framed around Republican congressmenappearing on Newsmax TV complaining about her getting released instead of a different imprisoned American, Paul Whelan. The apparently unironically named Charlie McCarthy wrote in a Dec. 8 article:
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., told Newsmax on Thursday that President Joe Biden "has upped the ante for what it takes to get someone out of Russia."
Lankford appeared on "National Report" following news that Russia freed WNBA star Brittney Griner in exchange for the U.S. releasing notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
The exchange deal did not include Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who has been held prisoner in Russia for nearly four years.
Lankford said he was happy that Griner was coming home, but again questioned the cost.
Sandy Fitzgerald wrote the same day:
WNBA star Brittney Griner's sentence of nine years in a Russian prison was far too long for a "too minor crime" of possession of cannabis oil, but her release in exchange for notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, whose nickname is the "Merchant of Death," means the return of an "evil man" who will "kill more Americans, more innocent people, and more people in general throughout the world," Rep. Jeff Van Drew told Newsmax on Thursday.
Meanwhile, U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive, has been jailed in Russia since December 2018 on espionage charges that his family and the U.S. government have called baseless, and Van Drew said Biden "doesn't really seem to care as much" about securing his release.
Jay Clemons followed with an attack on Griner:
Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., said Americans will be pleased WNBA star Brittney Griner is coming home after being detained in Russia for eight months but they should also be upset with the Biden administration's handling of a hostage swap that didn't include U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan.
"It's interesting and disappointing in what we see from the left that tends to say [America] is a 'racist, misogynist, and colonialist' country. These people tend to have never been abroad ... in countries where you can be snatched from the street and held [in jail] — for any reason," Waltz told Newsmax Thursday afternoon, while appearing on "American Agenda" with hosts Bob Sellers and Katrina Szish.
"We don't have a perfect country, but it's still the greatest in the world," said Waltz, while making the point that Griner has a public record of protesting America, but still returned home.
Clemons served up another complaining, sniping congressman in a Dec. 9 post:
Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, maintains the Biden administration has made a "mess" of the last few days — in terms of trumpeting the prisoner-swap release of WNBA star Brittney Griner from Russia, but neglecting to bring home retired U.S. Marine Paul Whelan and American Marc Fogel in a deal that allowed a convicted terrorist and arms dealer, Viktor Bout, to return to Moscow.
On the surface, Nehls doesn't have a problem with Griner coming home, despite her open loathing of America, prior to the eight-month detainment in Russia. But the Texas congressman would also like Griner to show some humility upon returning to the states.
Regarding Griner, Nehls hopes she "will consider" singing the national anthem at her next sporting event, or perhaps going to an elementary school and leading the children in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
"You owe it to America," said Nehls of Griner.
Fitzgerald returned for a Dec. 10 article with yet another GOP congressman:
The prisoner swap that resulted in the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner from Russia and not U.S. Marine veteran and police officer Paul Whelan in exchange for notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout shows a "pattern of weakness" and "capitulation" from Democrats and the Biden administration, Rep. Scott Perry told Newsmax on Saturday.
"There's got to be a priority here, and the priority apparently is about what's trending on social media and what looks more politically correct," said Perry.
Griner is Black and openly gay.
"What the priority should be is the person that's out, making sure that every single one of us can live free, the Marine remains in prison and it just seems to be lopsided," he added.
All of these congressman and all of these Newsmax writers failed to note that, as we've pointed out, Whelan received a bad-conduct discharge from the Marines following a court martial for attempted larceny, false statements and dereliction of duty, among other things. In other words, he actually committed crimes that were much worse the Russia accused Griner of doing (having a couple vape cartridges of cannabis oil).
Meanwhile, Newsmax host Eric Bolling sneered that Griner is "a mere basketball player" who "can’t free-throw or hide her stash to save her life." (Actually, her free-throw percentage is above the average for both the WNBA and the NBA.) And columnist Michael Dorstewitz whined that "Paul Whelan, a U.S. Marine, is going on his fourth year in Russian captivity his arrest at a Moscow hotel for espionage" and grumbled that the "America-hating, lesbian doper" was released instead: "So the issue wasn’t justice so much as it was identity politics, and Griner checked all the boxes: she’s Black, female, and lesbian — and a basketball star to boot! Whelan never had a chance."
And it wouldn't be Newsmax if it wasn't doing Trump stenography: A Dec. 8 article by Michael Katz hyped that "Former President Donald Trump slammed Thursday's prisoner exchange that freed U.S. women's basketball star Brittney Griner from a Russian prison, calling it an 'unpatriotic embarrassment,'" and a Dec. 11 article by Nick Kotsoubinas touted how Donald Trump claimed he would not have traded Griner for Bout and bragged that he turned down a Whelan-Bout trade.
Days later, Newsmax was still having people snipe about the Griner release deal. A Dec. 17 article by Solange Reyner hyped Oliver North's complaint that "Biden's decision to trade notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout for WNBA star Brittney Griner benefits Russian President Vladimir Putin more than it does the U.S." The same day, an article by Fitzgerald had former DEA agent Derek Maltz, who showed no expertise in international diplomacy, complain that "WNBA star Brittney Griner's return to the United States is a good thing, but it took a "bad deal" to get her here."